52 – Events In The Empire 5

──In the Imperial Capital of the Dolgarian Empire──

 

 

“Zagran, you want me to travel to a border town?”

 

The day after Princess Liana came to visit the detached palace, Liana’s sister, Sophia, was summoned to the Imperial court.

Princess Sophia met the emperor, who informed her that she would receive special instructions, before being escorted to the office of Zagran, the Minister of War, for further explanation.

“So I’m meant to participate in the military exercise near the border and cast light magic?”

“Yes.
We ask that you exhibit your power to both the demons and the demi-humans.”

Said Zagran from across the table.

“After that, Your Highness will be stationed in the border town for three years.”

“…..Eh?”

“Of course, we will ensure your stay is as comfortable as possible.
We will provide a mansion to reside in, and you will also be assigned a direct subordinate of this Zagran as an attendant.”

“Three years in a border town?! I cannot return to the capital during that time either?”

“This was decided by His Majesty.
His Majesty desired that Your Highness Sophia fulfill her role as a princess.”

Zagran placed the emperor’s edict on the table.

The contents conformed with Zagran’s explanation:

『Princess Sophia is to spend three years in a northern border town, doing her utmost to protect the border.

At that time, she will participate in military training and cast light attack magic.

After three years, Princess Sophia will be escorted back to the Imperial Capital, after which she will be permitted to freely rest and study without leaving the capital.

This is special, preferential treatment for one who does not have the strength to fight.』

“I have heard from Her Highness Liana that…..
Your Highness Sophia is interested in magic that increases convenience and comfort in one’s life.”

Zagran changed the subject abruptly.

 

“You occasionally invite researchers to discuss these matters, correct?”

“Yes, I do.
I’m interested in the means by which magic and magic power can improve our lives……”

 

Princess Sophia nodded.

 

“I wish to introduce technology that will allow even people like me to live comfortably.
It would also prove useful to the Empire.
The empire values power, but there is also merit in raising the standard of living for the nobility and the people──”

“I know, Your Majesty.
His Majesty seems to also understand that.”

 

Zagran stopped Sophia’s words by raising his hand.

 

“Therefore, His Majesty has declared that as soon as you have completed your three years of service and returned to the Imperial Capital, you will be allowed to research freely.
It would be better for Your Highness Sofia to dedicate your life to research by Princess Lana’s side.”

“…… Father said such a thing?”

“Yes.”

 

Zagran replied in a calm voice.

Princess Sophia stared intently at the emperor’s edict.

 

Then she directed her gaze at Zagran, seeming to have resolved herself.

 

“I accept the edict.
I am also an imperial princess.
If it is the emperor’s command, I will even risk my life to fulfill it.”

“Splendid.
As expected of Your Highness.”

“However, I ask that a request of mine be fulfilled before I set out for the border town.”

“What is it, Your Highness?”

“It concerns my twin sister, Liana.”

 

Princess Sophia stared directly into Zagran’s eyes and continued.

 

“She possesses great strength, but she has yet to mature mentally.
She requires someone to support her.
Therefore, I ask that I be given permission to visit her a few times a year?”

“Understood.
I’ll inform His Majesty.”

“We can also exchange letters, correct?”

“Of course.
As we are planning to tighten our border security, we will be sending out messengers more frequently, allowing me to deliver the letters from Your Highness Sophia to Her Highness Liana.”

 

Zagran replied casually.

 

“Is there anything else?”

“…… You have been Liana’s educator, guiding her over the years.”

 

Sophia abruptly stood up from her seat.

She held the sides of her dress and performed a curtsy.

 

“In fact, I should have been her role model as her twin sister.
But I was too weak to do so.
I am grateful to you for compensating for me, Zagran.”

“I am unworthy of those words.”

 

Zagran knelt on the floor.

Gazing at his white hair, Sophia continued.

 

“That’s why, Zagran, please swear that you will do your utmost to ensure Liana’s happiness.”

 

Princess Sophia felt her voice trembling.

Her breathing was ragged.

She had been nervous ever since she arrived at the palace, and it seemed that she had exhausted her strength.

 

(This body of mine would be described as ‘useless’ in the hero’s world.
Why am I always like this…… Always, during the critical moments.)

 

While squeezing her fists bitterly, she continued in her broken voice.

 

“As Minister of War ── and a long-standing subordinate of the emperor ── you must swear that you will raise my sister Liana to be a fine human being.
Swear that you will lead her down the right path.”

“I swear it.”

 

Zagran dropped onto one knee and hung his head.

He then swore in a polite tone, as though he was swearing in the presence of the king.

 

“I, Zagran, will put my life on the line to guide Her Highness to become a worthy princess of the Dogarian Empire.
I hope that henceforth, Her Highness Sofia will never be required to worry about her sister again.”

“……Absolutely, right?”

“I don’t understand why Your Highness is so suspicious.
You must be tired.”

 

Zagran said this and then rang a bell on the table.

It was a signal to summon his subordinates.

He must have noticed that Sophia was feeling unwell.

 

(…… I know, Zagran.
The imperial troops you commanded were rescued by the people of the…… Demon Territory.
I’m also aware that it was a result of your blunder.)

 

Princess Sophia recalled the information she heard.

 

Princess Liana had informed her when she arrived at the palace.

She said, ‘We made a slight blunder.’

 

Those words piqued Sophia’s curiosity, thereby leading her to take note of various rumours circulating among the nobles.

As a result, she discovered that Liana had failed to defeat the monster Gargarossa and was protected by the combatants of the Demon Territory.

The emperor also recorded it as a mistake on Liana and Zagran’s behalf.

 

To erase the failure, a suitable contribution was required.

Zagran may use Liana, the imperial princess, as a tool to do so; it would not be beyond a perfectionist such as Zagran.

 

Yet, Sophia was incapable of preventing it.

The emperor’s orders had already been delivered.

She could only push Zagran to make such a promise.

 

(…… If I possessed more strength…… I could protect Liana……)

 

Princess Sophia sank into her chair helplessly as these thoughts crossed her mind.

Eventually, Zagran’s adjutant entered the room.

With her support, Sophia left the court and boarded the carriage.

 

“…… Father, the mission will be accomplished.”

 

As she dropped onto her seat, Sophia reviewed the emperor’s orders.

 

“I will accomplish this task…… so that I can return to the…… Imperial Capital in less than three years…… this is your daughter’s resolution……”

 

‘Our departure is set for the day after tomorrow.
I probably won’t be able to visit Liana.’

‘So I’ll write her a letter instead.’

‘Zagran stated he would deliver letters to Liana.
I’m sure he’ll accommodate this much at least.’

 

With that in mind, Imperial Princess Sophia closed her eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I see, Her Highness has returned safely to the palace.”

 

Zagran murmured after Sophia had left.

His adjutant was standing beside him.

The female adjutant reported that she had escorted Sophia to a carriage and sent her back to the palace.

 

Then Zagran turned to his adjutant and said,

“Her Highness Sophia is a very unfortunate person.
Isn’t that right?”

“Yes, very unfortunate, if I may say so.”

 

Then Zagran looked at his adjutant,

 

“If Her Highness Sophia was in good health, she could have been the first-ever empress of the Empire.
Her light magic and intelligence are invaluable.”

“I don’t understand too much.”

 

The adjutant replied, her eyes downcast.

 

“The only thing I know is that…… Her Highness Liana is worried about her sister.”

“I’m sure she is.
It would be troublesome if she wasn’t.”

 

Zagran nodded.

 

“Princess Liana will exert herself as much as possible in order to allow Her Highness Sophia an earlier return to the Imperial Capital.”

“And so, Her Highness Liana will defeat the monsters, right?”

“Not until after Her Highness is released from her house arrest.”

“I understand.
My subordinates are already making preparations.”

“…… Originally, I would have preferred to leave Her Highness Liana to others and oversee the plan to use Sophia myself.”

 

Zagran, the Minister of War, rapped his hand on the table and said in an annoyed tone.

 

“I cannot participate in this plan, nor can I contribute to the planning of this event; it must be delegated to those elected by the High Council.
That is His Majesty’s decision.”

 

During the meeting following the defeat of the monster, Zagran was ordered to formulate a strategy to prevent the Demon Territory from overestimating itself.

As a result, he drafted a plan alongside the other person who was delegated the task.

However, Zagran was prohibited from participating in the operation itself.
The actual operation was to be conducted by the other person in charge.

This was the decision made by the upper echelons in the presence of the emperor.

 

“I can’t lead the operation myself, and I will be held responsible if it fails.
I’ve never operated under such unfavourable conditions……”

“That is truly unfortunate, my lord.”

“That’s why I’ve decided to send you as this Zagran’s representative, Mariella.”

 

Zagran called out his adjutant’s name.

 

“You must monitor the local commander.
He’s powerful, but I’m not certain he will follow orders.
Ensure that he doesn’t behave wildly and report any abnormalities immediately.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Her Highness Sophia’s magic is powerful.
If they combine their power, they may be able to rival the power of the Demon Lord.
Nonetheless, do not provoke the Demon Territory.
We mustn’t move rashly.”

 

Zagran instructed Mariella.

 

“Our purpose in the border town is simply to conduct regular military exercises.
Besides that, the only other task is to monitor the Demon Territory’s residents, to ensure that they don’t advance southwards.
If we abide by the plan, we should be able to intimidate the demons and demi-humans.”

 

The reason why Sophia was sent to the border was to showcase the strength of the Empire to the Demon Lord’s subjects.

 

In this way, while restraining the residents of the Demon Lord’s domain, Zagran will be able to use Liana to render meritorious services and erase his failure.

 

The Empire was not so lenient as to allow a second failure.

Therefore, Zagran contrived a plan that could not fail.

He would station Princess Sophia in the border town and use her light magic periodically to restrain the Demon Territory.

The plan was simple, only entailing this much.
There was no way she could fail.

 

“Mariella, I will request your return to the Imperial Capital in one year.
Until then, I want you to act as this Zagran’s representative and moderate the local commander.
He’s a strong man, but you never know what he’s thinking.”

“Yes, sir.
Permission to ask questions, sir?”

“Permission granted.”

“Her Highness Sophia will return in three years, correct?”

“If the circumstances permit.”

“The situation?”

“If Her Highness Liana accumulates merits and the Demon Territory is suppressed as planned, then Her Highness Sophia’s role will conclude.
Until then, she will be of use to the Empire.
That’s all.”

“……Understood.”

“I have advised His Majesty many times that Her Highness Liana and Sophia should be separated to best use them.”

 

Zagran laughed contentedly.

 

“That way, they will demonstrate their abilities to their fullest.
This operation will make this evident to His Majesty and he will know that this Zagran’s opinion is correct, reaffirming my value in his eyes.”

 

Zagran then handed a parchment to his adjutant, Mariella.

It contained instructions on how to use Princess Sophia for the next three years.

After telling her to keep the contents secret from Sophia and the local commander, Zagran left the room, leaving his adjutant behind.

“”

 

“I wonder how the Demon Lord’s territory will react to this.
If we don’t instill in them the idea that ‘the Empire is scary’, this plan will be meaningless.
It would be helpful if Her Highness Sophia used the ultimate light attack magic….”

 

With these thoughts flashing through his mind, the Minister of Military Affairs, Zagran, left the court and walked away.

His destination was the residence of the prince and princess.

 

A dozen minutes later.

Princess Liana was informed that her sister Sophia had voluntarily gone to the border town to compensate for her sister’s mistake.

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